§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD THANKERTON
My Lords, I am asking you to-day to give a Second Reading to a Bill which with one or two exceptions, to which I will draw your Lordships' attention, is identical with the Bill which passed your Lordships' House last April, and for which time was not found in the other House. I think an attempt was made there to get the Bill through after eleven o'clock, but of course it did not succeed. In 1933, for the first time, solicitors in Scotland got the necessary powers to set up a General Council for the profession. Such a body had long been established in England and also in Ireland. In the Act of 1933 the Scottish Council was not endued with all the powers that at that time were vested in the corresponding bodies in those two other countries: it was thought wise to take the thing by stages, and to get the General Council firmly seated in the saddle before getting these additional powers. That Act contained provisions, the most important of which was undoubtedly the setting up of a Discipline Committee for the disciplining, where necessary, of members of the profession. The present Bill is an attempt to bring the powers of the Scottish General Council into line with the powers that already exist in England.
I think I can state the points very shortly. With regard to the first ten clauses (in Part I), those are to effect a transfer of the power of issuing practising certificates to members of the profession, 203 to the General Council in place of the Court of Session, in which it resides at the present moment. The Law Society in England have long had the power to issue these certificates in this country and I do not think there can be any possible objection to that course. Part II relates to the discipline side and, in effect, gives power to the General Council to make rules with regard to certain matters, the method of keeping accounts and so on, which are described in Clause II and which are identical with the powers that already exist in England and in Ireland. The one really new thing in this Bill as compared with the Bill which passed your Lordships' House last April, is Clause 15, relief to banks. That is a clause for the protection of bankers which is identical with Section 8 of the English Act of 1933. I do not think there can be any question that that is a wise provision.
Then I come to Part III which, with the exception of some drafting amendments, is identical with the Bill of last April except as regards Clause 16, where there have been some modifications in the language which I do not think make very much difference but make the clause a little more moderate than it was originally. I do not think there is really any very material change, but it was altered at the desire of certain practising members of the profession who thought that as originally drawn the terms of the clause were a little too strict. The purpose of the first three Clauses of Part III, Clauses 16, 17 and 18, is to allow a control of the practice of taking apprentices. Clause 18 is particularly important to the profession because some difficulties may be experienced, for example, in the case of an apprentice whose master has suddenly left the country, or something of that kind, when the articles of apprenticeship have not yet expired, so that the poor apprentice is left in the air for the time being. It is quite obvious that that power is most desirable. The remaining clauses are consequential on the earlier provisions of the Bill.
There is only one clause, I think, that can be said to be more than that, and that is Clause 24, in which, in paragraph (a), the Lord Advocate is added to the class of persons who are entitled to make representations or complaints with regard to the conduct of a solicitor. That obviously must have been an omission from the 204 earlier Acts and is one that clearly should be remedied. With these general words I hope I have sufficiently explained the object and purpose of this measure, and I move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Thankerton.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD MAUGHAM)
My Lords, His Majesty's Government have considered this Bill and approve, generally speaking, of the provisions in it. At any rate they invite your Lordships to give it a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.